County Engineer Says 24 Intersections in Montville "High Crash Histories" - Still No Light for Gathering

Morris County Engineer Christopher Vitz Credits: Melissa Benno
Fran Rycharski speaks to Morris County Engineer Christopher Vitz Credits: Melissa Benno

MONTVILLE, NJ - The Montville Township Committee hosted County Engineer Christopher Vitz at their Nov. 9 meeting, who said that while 24 intersections in Montville have “high crash histories” that need to be looked into, no traffic signal is warranted at the intersection of Gathering and Changebridge Roads.

Vitz described an additional accident that had occurred at the intersection of Gathering and Changebridge Roads since the county’s traffic study was conducted in pursuit of installation of a traffic light at the corner.

He mentioned that before the study, there had only been one accident, but the recent accident had occurred at the site during the past couple of weeks. However, according to the guidelines, there must be five “correctable” accidents per year at the site, and Vitz said this accident was “not correctable by a traffic signal.”

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“There was a person going southbound on Changebridge Road stopped in the left turn lane, somebody was coming northbound on Changebridge Road, and they struck the other car with a glancing blow, like a reverse-direction side-swipe,” Vitz said. “So that wouldn’t be correctable.”

“We did take a look town-wide at crash history, and surprisingly, there are other intersections that have much higher crash histories that we really need to talk to [Township Engineer] Mark Mantyla soon about – there’s a couple dozen,” Vitz said.

Residents in the area have voiced their concerns about the intersection to township officials, who asked the county to expedite the study, which found a traffic signal was not warranted. (Read details of the study HERE.)

Vitz explained that the eight guidelines for establishing traffic lights are established by the federal government.

“Everybody wants a traffic signal at every intersection, so these guidelines were set up to eliminate that,” he said. “It takes into account traffic volume, pedestrian crossing and crash history.”

Vitz said the county would re-examine the study after the daycare center located across from Gathering Road opens, but that reducing the speed limit to school-zone levels (25 mph) would not be allowed. The guideline applies only when children are present, he said, not when they are driven to the daycare center and dropped off.

He said the sight distance for the intersection had been improved because the homeowner on the corner had cleared away brush. Before there had been only 150 feet of sight distance to the left and now there are more than 330 feet of sight distance, he said. Vitz hoped this would help eliminate residents’ fears and concerns. He said the overall speed limit for Changebridge is 40 mph, but speed surveys can be conducted with the help of the police department, with the possible result of lowering the speed limit.

Sandham confirmed with Vitz that the refusal to install a signal is not due to funding – even if the township offered to pay for a signal, it could not be done due to the guidelines, Vitz agreed.

Raj Vedanthachari lives on Gathering Road, and said during the public portion of the meeting that his brother was the victim of the accident. He said the car is now totaled. Vedanthachari said the intersection is at a sharp curve and is extremely dark at that spot.

Fran Rycharski said wet leaves and snow are a problem with the intersection and she hoped the township committee would keep an eye on the spot. She said during a massive snowstorm, the corner has a giant snow pile accumulation, which makes the sight line once again blocked. Vitz instructed Rycharski to call the county to come out with a front-end loader to offload snow where giant snowbanks accumulate which block sight lines.

“It is what it is,” Rycharski told the committee. “We have to wait, and life will go on. Let’s hope we don’t meet that threshold of five accidents or any fatalities. But in reality, I think it’s incumbent upon our community, and [the committee] to be mindful of the dangers of this street and get the wet leaves off the road, get the street lights fixed and do what we have to do to get the snow to go away.”

Sandham thanked Vitz for coming, saying, “We don’t like your answers, unfortunately, but we have to live with them, because we don’t make the rules.”

Vitz said he understood, and that the study would be revisited three to six months after the daycare and the new retail plaza open.

Mantyla urged the public to call JCP&L if a streetlight is out near them at 1-888-544-4877.

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